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Naval Mine Warfare: Operational and Technical Challenges for Naval Forces
sition, and in particular without having to overcome maritime mines. Plans for a landing at Wonsan in the enemy’s rear during that war were delayed by extensive minefields. Eventually, plans for the Wonsan landing were canceled because the South Korean Army captured Wonsan as it moved north. Plans were made for landings in Soviet-threatened areas during the Cold War, and Soviet mining doctrine for protecting beaches is expected to inform future U.S. opponents along the littoral. The Soviet defensive mine doctrine, which was followed only in part by Iraq in defending against a possible coalition landing in 1991, called for a succession of mine barriers starting with a perimeter minefield about 25 nautical miles off the beach, extending through a main mine barrier with several lines of mines about 7 to 9 nautical miles offshore and a VSW barrier, and ending with a heavy deployment of mines and obstacles from the surf zone through the beach exit zone.
The last time a major amphibious landing against opposition was contemplated by the United States in wartime was during the Gulf War in 1991, but although landing forces were kept in place offshore to tie down Iraqi forces it was decided not to make a landing.2,3 The mined approaches to the landing beaches were one, but not the only, factor in the decision. The only operational over-the-beach landing since that time was in Somalia in 1992, but the greeting force was mostly the U.S. media. Future such landings with relatively small forces might easily be thwarted by a combination of sea mines, beach mines, and obstacles even if no shoreside opposing force is present.
The declared U.S. policy continues to be to maintain a capability for opposed over-the-beach assaults, and much of the Marine Corps combat development and modernization planning envisions them. Amphibious landings remain a part of contingency planning for wartime expeditionary force operations along the littoral, and should the need for one occur, time and maneuver space can be critically limited.
Such landings might be needed, for example, on islands of modest size that have no easy landward approach for operations in a country that has only a short coastline, or where ports may not be available and over-the-beach approaches represent the only way to support follow-on logistics early in a campaign.
While amphibious landings of the scale of those seen in World War II are an anachronism when contemplated in terms of currently developing U.S. national and military strategies and operational concepts, a landing of the scale contemplated during the Gulf War could well be called for, into the indefinite future. For example, a Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB)-size landing to protect a major U.S. interest, carried out as a component of the “Operational Maneuver From the
Gordon, Michael R., and General Bernard E.Trainor, USMC (Ret.). 1995. The Generals’ War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, Little, Brown and Company, New York, pp. 192–194.
Amphibious planning during the Gulf War is described in Appendix B.